Al-Qaeda's New Leadership
Adam Gadahn, Propagandist
Gadahn, a U.S. citizen who grew up on a California goat farm, was indicted for treason by a federal grand jury in October, becoming one of only a handful of people in U.S. history to be charged with that crime.
An Islamic convert with Jewish and Catholic roots, Gadahn has emerged as a valued propaganda weapon for al-Qaeda, appearing in a string of videos released by its media production arm, As Sahab.
Now 29, he embraced Islam as a teenager in California and moved to Pakistan a decade ago. He emerged from obscurity in 2004, when the U.S. Justice Department named him as one of seven al-Qaeda operatives planning imminent attacks on the United States.
He made his first video appearance on behalf of al-Qaeda in 2004. But he drew greater attention a year later on the eve of the fourth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackings, introducing himself in another video as "Azzam the American," and warning his fellow U.S. citizens that they could expect "unpleasant consequences" if they didn't change their ways.
Since his indictment for treason, Gadahn has become an even more visible part of al-Qaeda's propaganda machine.
His most recent video was released Aug. 5. In it, Gadahn and al-Qaeda chief deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri discuss a "martyrdom operation" by an al-Qaeda operative who killed himself in a bombing attack on the U.S. consulate in Karachi, Pakistan.
"He's not just speaking English, he's speaking American," said Evan Kohlmann, a New York-based terrorism researcher who studies Islamic radicalism on the Internet. "He's using American vernacular and talking in terms we can understand."
Analysts said Gadahn is not a part of the al-Qaeda inner circle, nor does he hold any operational or ideological significance. But they said his propaganda value is enormous.
"His main role appears to be limited to issuing videos and messages," said Ben Venzke, chief executive of IntelCenter, a terrorism research group.
In addition to the indictment, U.S. officials have posted a $1 million bounty on Gadahn's head.
— Craig Whitlock